Friday, March 16, 2007

Pilotless Drone - A grammar complaint becomes video art

Newspaper editorial errors can provoke nasty letters and phone calls from irate readers. One particular phone call featured on about the term "pilotless drone" has taken on a life of its own.

This video by chiefbluefeather from YouTube features several famous robots science fiction history, including Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet and VINcent from The Black Hole.

As a fan of old science fiction films, I can't help but love this video.

My thanks to Abby for the tip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Empire as Office Space? Darth Vader mocks an officer

Members of the YouTube community continue to amaze me with how they can take a piece of footage you have seen a million times, re-cut it, and make it into something completely different.

This ominous scene from The Empire Strikes Back is an example. With a few simple edits, the whole scene changes into slapstick.

The Empire from the Star Wars films was supposed to be a formidable adversary to the Rebel Alliance. This clip makes the mighty Empire look like the dysfunctional company from Office Space.

If you compare the Empire to Office Space, does that make Darth Vader the character of Bill Lumbergh, or does that make him Milton? Lumbergh was the boss, but Milton had a red stapler and Darth Vader's lightsaber was red.

The Empire as Office Space? I am sure someone is hunched over their computer making that video right now.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

You're gonna play POLE POSITION!!!!!

While doing some research on YouTube, I found this commercial from the 1980s for Atari's Pole Position.

What strikes me about this ad is how nasty it is. Video game commercials, even back the the 1980s, appealed to a demographic that loved pushing buttons to blow things up...and Pole Position is a racing game where you are supposed to avoid causing destruction.

While this ad might not be as brutal as a session of Quake or Doom III, Atari's marketers seemed to think the way to get the MTV generation (back when MTV used to PLAY music) to open up their (or mom and dad's) wallet to buy a video game was to put a family of stereotype preppies in the the middle of a flaming car crash. Appealing to American kids' thirst for anarchy did not start with Grand Theft Auto.

The family in their Volkswagen looks "nerdy", with the dad and kids wearing big glasses. Ironically, 20 years later geek chic has now become a fashion trend, while the Volkswagen Rabbit has returned as a car aimed at hipsters.

I guess if this ad were made today, the dad would be a trendy looking baby boomer with his kids out for a drive to the local Starbucks in their hybrid SUV.

Considering how much bloodshed goes on in modern video games, I fear that family would wind up someplace very bad if the giant hand came to get them. They would be pursued and devoured by toothy demons or riddled with bullets by feuding urban warlords.

They would not last five minutes on the mean streets of Liberty City.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Floppie the Banjo Clown hand puppet

Mystery solved!

Floppie has his own site too.

Floppie is connected to a story that I've already written about, and to say anymore might ruin the surprise for some. If you want to know more about Floppie, you can do some searches on his name and find out.

Besides...clowns kind of creep me out.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Helen Mirren in the movie 2010

Actress Helen Mirren won an Academy Award recently for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. Critics have praised Mirren's performance as a monarch dealing with the aftermath of death of Princess Diana.

I remember seeing Helen Mirren in her role as the Russian Cosmonaut and commander of the spaceship Leonov in 2010: The Year We Make Contact in 1984. Mirren is playing similar roles in both The Queen and 2010: a woman who has to face a dire situation and adapting to a world (or worlds) threatening to overwhelm her.

Back then I though Mirren was a Russian actress. Most of the Leonov crew are played by Russians actors, but I was suprised when I found out that Mirren is British. I also had seen her in Excalibur and did not recognize her.

Helen Mirren has Russian ancestors, and her original name was Ilyena Vasilievna Mironova, but she was born in Ilford, Essex, now a part of Greater London.

Early on in 2010, Mirren is the classic stereotype of a Russian woman in the movies during the cold war era: a stern personality as steely as the ship she commands. She's harsh and snippy with the American crew on her ship, who are there to repair the lost spaceship Discovery.

There is a dual conflict in 2010: as an extra-terrestrial presence emerges in the orbit around Jupiter, a political crisis back on Earth could start a nuclear war.

Mirren's cosmonaut reveals her softer side as the tension grows, expressing her fears as an officer, a wife, and a mother. She realizes the events around Jupiter are escalating beyond her ability to comprehend them.

The mysterious monolith has plans to transform Jupiter into a cradle new life, while the Earth spins toward atomic doomsday. In the middle of this, a woman who is used to being in control of her destiny finds herself having to embrace ideas that shatter her familiar thinking and dwarf her authority.

Like the Queen of England dealing with the crisis of confidence in the monarchy in 1997, the commander of the Leonov has to face the situation or be consumed by it...literally.

While 2010 does look more melodramatic nearly two decades after the cold war's end, it is remarkable that a film that came out only a few months after Red Dawn and a year before Rambo II, featured a crew of sympathetic Russian characters.

Space itself becomes a character in 2010. This is not the space of the Star Trek films, where ships bounce between star systems with a push of a button. The giant Leonov (designed by futurist Syd Mead) is formidable looking, yet when the ship has to maneuver into the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, you see how puny and delicate human technology is compared to the vastness of space and the gravity of giant planets.

Helen Mirren has played more dramatic and recognized roles, but I still remember her from 2010, even as she became more well known for her roles in TVs Prime Suspect and now The Queen. 2010 took a beating from fans of 2001 and from critics for not being as cerebral as Kubrick's film, nor as exciting as the Star Wars epics.

As the actual year 2010 approaches, perhaps the success of The Queen will encourage a second look at this film and Mirren's performance.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Blue Man Group - Disco meets CMYK

Last Friday I saw the Blue Man Group in concert. I did not sit in the "poncho" section, so I returned home with being splashed with anything, but I was close enough to get a good view of the show.

I sometimes find it hard to lose myself in a show like this, my brain is trying to interpret all the design choices and elements. I find myself asking in the middle of the show "Why did they pick that font for a title?" or "Is that a Stanley Kubrick reference?" This time the analytic side of my brain took a break for the evening.

One part of the Blue Man Group show that did appeal to the graphic arts geek of my personality was the song I Feel Love, where the lead singer wears a dress that flashes on and off in sync with stage lights. The effect was like a cross between the sound meters on graphic equalizer and a Pantone guide. Disco meets CMYK.

Here's a clip I found of the Blue Man Group in action with the electric dress.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The UFO powered car - Can alien technology can stop global warming?

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Yahoo News features a story about a former Canadian defense minister who demands that the governments of the world admit that they possess secret alien technologies, which could be used as an alternative fuel source to fossil fuels.

Are there really UFOs? I have no idea, but this story intrigued me as I tried to imagine what would happen if this former Canadian defense minister got exactly what he wanted.

What if governments of the world admit that they have hangars full of crashed UFOs, then they hand them over to companies who start backward engineering them?

Soon, I'm able to drop by my local dealership and pick up a new sedan that features the latest in alien engineering under the hood. Forget fuel cells, soon we are all driving cars powered by Men In Black style technology.

Steve Jobs would be offering new UFOIpods, offering music and cellphone tech powered by extra-terrestrial microchips. Maybe Microsoft could use UFO tech to make a version of Windows that expands Internet access across the solar system. That would give a whole new meaning to the slogan "Where do you want to go today?"

But wait a second...why would UFOs crash in the first place? If alien tech is so powerful, why do flying saucers keep smashing into the ground? If these bug-eyed aliens are so bright, how come they have had so many accidents that more than one country has a UFO sitting in some secret garage? Are there lemon flying saucers that are more crash prone than others?

If we did get UFO powered cars, we would need qualified mechanics to fix and service them. Would we have to recruit aliens to repair our new cars? I shudder to think what the illegal drag-race scene would do with these new engines.

And what about the aliens? If we use their technology to conquer global warming, couldn't they show up court and demand a cut of the royalties from all those new products? It would be a field day for the lawyers.

What would be the reaction of the public to all of this? Perhaps Hollywood already answered the question back in the 1950s with The Day The Earth Stood Still. Here is the trailer.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Where's Gamecube?

Since I posted the ADD Shopping Network by DCLugi, I thought I would post this video too. WARNING...the video game consoles in this video use a few four-letter words. I would say they have dirty mouths...but they don't even have mouths. Viewer discretion is advised.

In a related story, it seems that Gamecube is still alive and well.